Foreign Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from the States of Guernsey
1. Executive Summary
1.1 In 2006, the UK and the Crown Dependencies agreed that they “will work jointly to promote a wide understanding that each [Crown Dependency’s] desire to promote itself internationally reflects its intention to participate in world events as mature confident democracies committed both to playing their part in helping others and raising world standards.” The Commonwealth, with which Guernsey already has a constructive working engagement, is an important forum for that.
1.2 The Policy Council of the States of Guernsey is of the view that the UK Government should actively engage with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in direct consultation with Guernsey and the other Crown Dependencies, to discuss the ways in which the Crown Dependencies could enhance their participation in Commonwealth organisations and meetings, including CHOGM.
2. The Context and the Constitutional Relationship
2.1 Guernsey is a territory for whose external relations the United Kingdom is responsible. Recently Guernsey has increasingly acted internationally on its own behalf,1 particularly in relation to matters for which it has complete autonomy, and the UK Government has recognised the appropriateness of Guernsey further developing its international identity.2 The Commonwealth provides a valuable forum and it would provide benefit to the Crown Dependencies to have a membership that better reflects the existing constitutional relationship with the UK, in light of the decision relating to membership made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in 2007.
2.2 Guernsey, a Crown Dependency, is administered by the States of Guernsey. Its assembly, the States of Deliberation, derives its authority and powers from the Reform (Guernsey) Law, 1948, as amended. It comprises the Bailiff as ex-officio Presiding Officer, the two Law Officers (HM Procureur and HM Comptroller) who have a voice but no vote, and the voting members are the forty-five People’s Deputies and the two representatives of Alderney. The People’s Deputies are elected from each of the seven multi-seat constituencies by universal adult suffrage.
2.3 The Policy Council of the States of Guernsey is mandated to perform the function of conducting Guernsey’s external relations. The Council comprises the Chief Minister, its chairman, and the Minister of each of ten departments with mandated responsibilities on behalf of the States of Deliberation. The States of Deliberation acts as the overarching executive and legislative assembly.
2.4 The Cabinet Manual3 and Ministry of Justice Background Briefing on Crown Dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man4 provide an outline of the constitutional relationship of the Crown Dependencies with the UK.
2.5 The Ministry of Justice, in its response to the Justice Select Committee’s report on Crown Dependencies,5 recognises that the Crown Dependencies have an international identity which is separate to that of the UK. It suggests solutions to the problem this creates, including encouraging engagement and consultation on international matters that are of interest to the Crown Dependencies. In respect of international agreements, the report encourages the greater use of entrustment for the Crown Dependencies to reflect their evolving international profile and to enable them to meet prevailing international standards. The Ministry of Justice is content for the Crown Dependencies to broaden this entrustment to represent themselves where the UK and other State or States are content with them to do so.6 This policy position builds on and reflects the status of the “International Identity Framework Document”, detailed below.
3. The International Identity Framework Document
3.1 In 2006 the Chief Ministers of the Crown Dependencies and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs agreed a statement of intent relating to the development of the international personality of the Crown Dependencies in the following terms:
3.2 This final document, the International Identity Framework document (“the IIF”) was agreed between these parties and was signed by Deputy Lyndon Trott, the Chief Minister of Guernsey, and Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, on 18 December 2008. The document states:
Framework for developing the international identity of Guernsey
Following the statement of intent agreed on 11 January 2006, the Chief Minister of Guernsey and the UK Secretary of State for [Constitutional Affairs] have agreed the following principles. They establish a framework for the development of the international identity of Guernsey. The framework is intended to clarify the constitutional relationship between the UK and Guernsey, which works well and within which methods are evolving to help achieve the mutual interests of both the UK and Guernsey.
The UK will not act internationally on behalf of Guernsey without prior consultation.
The UK recognises that the interests of Guernsey may differ from those of the UK, and the UK will seek to represent any differing interests when acting in an international capacity. This is particularly evident in respect of the relationship with the European Union where the UK interests can be expected to be those of an EU member state and the interests of Guernsey can be expected to reflect the fact that the UK’s membership of the EU only extends to Guernsey in certain circumstances as set out in Protocol 3 of the UK’s Treaty of Accession.
4. Guernsey’s International Identity
4.1 The States of Guernsey’s objectives place a high level of importance on the development of its international profile. Those objectives are designed to help “improve the quality of life of Islanders and to secure our economic future while protecting the Island’s natural environment, unique cultural identity and rich heritage”. In the 2011–16 Strategic Plan, which re-affirms those objectives, the States of Guernsey agreed that fulfilling them requires the “maintenance and enhancement of Guernsey’s standing in the global community” as well as to “improve awareness of the culture and identity of Guernsey”.7
4.2 Guernsey meets these priorities within the spirit of the constitutional relationship and the IIF. For example Guernsey, in partnership with Jersey, established the Channel Islands Brussels Office in 2011. The purpose of the office is to provide enhanced engagement with the European Union to both help ensure the economic prosperity of the island and enhance its international reputation.
4.3 Guernsey has also embraced a much broader international role through the agreement and conclusion of a number of tax agreements with the OECD, EU and G20 countries under entrustment issued by the UK Government. Guernsey has bilateral agreements with all 27 EU Member States implementing measures equivalent to those binding the Member States between themselves under the EU Taxation of Saving Income Directive. In 2002 Guernsey entered into a political commitment to the OECD’s principles of effective exchange of information. To date, 33 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (along with some ancillary taxation agreements) have been concluded.8
4.4 The British-Irish Council (BIC) is an important forum for the island that enables it to play an equal role alongside the UK Government, Irish Government and the devolved administrations on issues of mutual interest. The island plays an active role in the council contributing to the work streams that flow from it. Guernsey will be contributing financially, through an agreed cost sharing model, to the newly-established Standing Secretariat, and indeed wishes to be able to second staff to the secretariat.
4.5 Guernsey’s involvement in external relations work also facilitates the involvement of Alderney and Sark when appropriate, both of which have their own legal personality and form part of the wider Bailiwick of Guernsey.
5. Guernsey and the Commonwealth
5.1 Guernsey embraces the values of the Commonwealth and of the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles of 1971. It is committed to democracy and democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative legislatures; the rule of law and independence of the judiciary; good governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public accounts; and the protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity.
5.2 Guernsey is already a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and representatives attend Commonwealth Meetings of Finance Ministers, Meetings of Law Ministers/Attornies General, and the Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers. Many of the topics discussed by the wider CHOGM relate to matters which engage the interest of the Crown Dependencies.
5.3 While Guernsey is not a sovereign state and therefore not formally responsible for international relations, outside of those matters entrusted to it, it would value being more directly engaged in the work of the Commonwealth. Enhanced engagement with the Commonwealth could lead to improvements in Guernsey’s domestic standards, civil society, and economy, and to its international identity, alongside enhanced opportunities to share knowledge and experience for the benefit of other Commonwealth jurisdictions, including small sovereign states.
5.4 The Policy Council is aware of the review undertaken by the Committee of Commonwealth Membership and agreed by the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Kampala, Uganda in 2007. The report of the Committee stated that:
The Heads of Government endorse the current practice of [Crown Dependencies] hosting and/or attending Commonwealth functional meetings, as well as contributing to and benefiting from the activities of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation where relevant.
So far as is possible, there should be consistent practices developed in the representation of [Crown Dependencies] at Commonwealth meetings in consultations with their administering power.
The Heads of Government may also wish to call upon the Secretary-General to devise ways to enhance the profile of [Crown Dependencies] in the Commonwealth family, especially in the civil society and business sectors.
6.1 In the spirit of the IIF, and in light of CHOGM’s 2007 decision, the Policy Council urges the UK Government to engage actively with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in direct consultation with the States of Guernsey and with the governments of the other Crown Dependencies, for the purpose of discussing the ways in which the Crown Dependencies could enhance their participation in Commonwealth organisations and meetings, including CHOGM. In particular, Guernsey would welcome further discussions on what practices might be put in place to enable more direct representation at Commonwealth meetings in a manner that is consistent with Guernsey’s constitutional relationships.
20 January 2001
1 For example, cooperation agreements with the 27 EU Member States (in relation to Directive 2003/48/EC on taxation of savings income) and 33 agreements for the exchange of information relating to tax matters (as at 29 December 2011).
2 See Framework for developing the international identity of Guernsey, 18 December 2008 [copied below].
3 Cabinet Office (2011) Cabinet Manual http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/cabinet-manual
4 Ministry of Justice (2011) Background Briefing on Crown Dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/about/moj/our-responsibilities/Background_Briefing_on_the_Crown_Dependencies2.pdf
Ministry of Justice (2010) Government Response to the Justice Select Committee’s report: Crown Dependencies Cm 7965
6 Ibid at p13-14
7 States of Deliberation Billet d’État XVI 2011